FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- (September 21, 2012) Fort Wainwright Soldiers and the efforts they put into the schools is going to have a direct impact on the type of students that come out of the schools, said Col. Ronald M. Johnson, Fort Wainwright garrison commander.

It is one of the reasons for the School Partnership Program covenant-signing ceremony Sept. 10 which renewed U.S. Army Alaska and Fort Wainwright's commitment to a strong relationship with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

"Our goal for this partnership is to establish a long-lasting relationship with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District to improve the citizenship and learning experiences of our children through four main components: mentorship, leadership training, unit-school partnership, and parental involvement," said USARAK Commander Maj. Gen. Michael X. Garrett.
The program gives Soldiers an opportunity to volunteer in the schools to work with students in traditional classes such as English and math, but also provides unique learning opportunities through field trips to Fort Wainwright.
"I think there is a lot to be said for volunteerism," Johnson said. He hopes Soldiers will feel a sense of accomplishment for their contributions in the program.

"Partnerships with schools are important for many reasons," said Dana Evans, principal at Barnette Magnet School. "In addition to exposing students to rich, real-world experiences and expertise, lifelong relationships are formed and the value of education is reinforced. Students gain a perspective for the importance of the lessons they are learning and the class work they are doing through the influences of outside partnerships with the school. It is through interactions with professionals in their specific fields, where students are inspired to think about careers and the appropriate path to get there."

She and the unit assigned to her school have already started to explore options on how to best use the program. Some of these include: Reading with students and listening to students read aloud to the Soldiers, working with students on writing and communication, supporting the robotics club and classes, History Day, competitions such as the science fair, speech contest and the spelling bee.
"Our military servicemen and women bring a great deal to the table," Evans said. "In addition to a fonder appreciation and respect for our freedoms and liberties afforded to us by living in the United States of America, my hope is that our students will gain a better understanding of why school is important and therefore value their education and the role it plays in their future.
Our students, for the most part, were all born post-9/11 and have grown up in a United States different than those before them. I want them to be inspired, to appreciate the sacrifices our servicemen and women make, and to continue the journey as lifelong learners, creating and exploring better options for all of our futures."

It gives us a chance to give back, to take an active role, to make things better Johnson said. "I think Fairbanks is a really good example for Army installations everywhere of the impact Soldiers can have on their community."